Sublime in every way, The Man in the Woman’s Shoes is both hilarious and deeply moving with the most simple of story lines. Talent such as Mikel Murfi’s is rare to find – someone who can both act and write so beautifully that you feel your heart physically warming as the play progresses.
The beauty in this piece lies (perhaps rather unusually) in its lack of drama; it feels refreshing to sit back and enjoy the tenderness of Murfi’s performance without being on tenterhooks. The story is straightforward: Pat Farman, a cobbler, walks to town and back again, to deliver a pair of women’s shoes. On the way there, he wears the women’s shoes, in order to wear them in for his customer. As an audience we are privileged to listen to Pat speak to us about his life, telling wonderful, and achingly funny stories about his life and experiences as he journeys on. Why is this such a privilege you ask? Because to everyone else in his life, Pat is mute. Knowing this makes you feel all the more lucky, to be able to have such an intimate insight into this loveable character’s innermost thoughts and feelings.
It gets better yet – because not only does Murfi cause you to fall in love with Pat, his excellent multi rolling leaves you belly laughing with Pat, at the other characters that exist within this small Irish community. Murfi’s voices, actions and mannerisms for each individual make you forget that standing before you is a white haired man in a shirt breeches and trousers, regardless of the age or gender that he plays. Not to mention his fantastically realistic animal noises, which at one point made me genuinely question whether there was a live dog in the theatre.
Using a bare stage, with a handful of props, makes Murfi’s performance all the more impressive. It doesn’t need anything fancy for you to feel completely immersed in his narrative – just his wonderful story and his wonderful acting. No added embellishments were required; this is the chicken soup for-the-soul of theatre. Concise, witty, and incredibly intelligent. It truly is amazing what a single person can do with some well-chosen words. Not a single audience member left without a smile on their face. A real joy to watch.
The Man in the Woman’s Shoes is playing Tricycle Theatre until 23 April. For more information and tickets, see the Tricycle Theatre website..
Photo: Mark Douet